Summer holidays are just around the corner and as you move through the day-to-day operations of your current role, you may ask yourself as you look forward to the fall and the year ahead, is it time to look for my next step? While it is tempting to just shoot out a copy of your CV when you run into an opportunity, sending out a CV without the preparation may not get the results you desire, and in some cases, may jeopardize future opportunities because it does not clearly represent who you are and what you are seeking. While there are no absolute rules for when you should start seeking your next role, there are some fundamentals that any executive needs to consider when they do decide to explore new opportunities. Both private and corporate executive clients I have worked with over the years have benefited from a quick check up before launching into their search process, and I hope that some of these tips can help you as you consider your next steps. (Hint: It’s not only about getting your papers ready!)
Gaining Clarity in Who You Are Today and What You Seek
It is worthwhile before you launch your next steps forward to take an inventory of where you are at as an executive. Who you are is a culmination of your entire career – think of it as a story… from where you started, the turns in the road that you have taken (and why), and how your destination has come into focus. Understanding who you are today and where you are going is the first step in the process. Without this, it is difficult for recruiters or potential hiring organizations to envision you in a potential role. Working through this process, my clients come to have a better understanding of their actual current inventory of skills and competencies, what skills and competencies are required for potential future roles, and what may be some potential paths to gain these critical skills and competencies. I help my clients identify things that they have overlooked as they work me through their story to highlight items that they have not considered to be valuable for their potential future employers. It is also important to be brutally honest with yourself on what you state are your actual skills and competencies – overstating your capabilities could potentially land you a job, but the consequences when you are in the job could pose a major risk and could be devastating to your overall career.
I also work my clients through a visualization phase of diverse paths that can help them see that their career need not be a single tunnel – sometimes we as good corporate soldiers continue to take the next “logical” step in career progression, forgetting to lift our heads up to see the broad spectrum of options that can give us far more fulfillment. It is quite interesting as I look back on some of my clients over the past years that have had the courage to take a radically different path than the “logical” one and have grown significantly in their new pursuits with incredible motivation and purpose. Once these alternative paths are laid out, my clients research them to understand better what it would be like to be in one of these roles and some potential career steps to gain the inventory they need to prepare themselves for that journey. We do this in the context of the client’s key values, drivers and boundaries, which may shift over the course of your career and lifetime. By force ranking what are the most important values and drivers to a client, one avoids taking steps that are not congruent to the client, and also prevents the issue of backing out of potential offers after realizing it is not really what the client wants.
Ensuring Your CV is in Alignment and Projects What You Want
The next step that I work my clients through is to ensure that their CV states clearly and succinctly who they are and why a potential hiring organization should place a bet on hiring them. Working though a CV is a lot more than ensuring there is enough white space and that you don’t mistake bullets for sentences and paragraphs. It is more than about inserting active verbs and key words. It is all about alignment. I use a pyramid method as I screen my client CVs, ensuring that each subsequent section offers more details of their capabilities and that their qualifications are demonstrated concretely through one or more of their previous professional experiences. We look to introduce the “so what” factor in every bullet, ensuring that the CV is not a a list of job descriptions – these are not only numeric quantifications, but can also include why your accomplishment made a difference or why it is relevant and translatable to potential hiring organization. Your CV needs to be customized to emphasize the right elements for specific jobs and organizations (one size fits all is not a principle that works here) and certain industry sectors have common elements that may allow you to transition from one to another while adding tremendous value. We work on ensuring that your CV is understandable for recruiters and external hiring organizations – your internal CV and job titles need to be adapted to meet the target audience. Last but certainly not least, we step back and take a look at the overall work product to assess how it reads, potential gaps or anomalies, and whether or not it accomplishes the desired outcome.
Understanding How You Project Yourself in Interviews and Optimize Interactions
The final phase that I work through with my clients is the self-preparation phase. Whether for phone interviews, email exchanges, or in person interviews – I work with my clients to gain awareness on how they project themselves, some habits and mannerisms that they may want to adapt, and strategies to overcome potential derailers while they are interacting with recruiters or hiring organizations. While working together in the previous phases, a coach is constantly observing and noting things like how you express yourself, words you choose, how you react under stress, and potential derailer habits that you may not notice yourself. We work to understand what is driving these behaviors and then work to replace them with behaviors that serve you better. We work through a structured thinking approach for a better and more thorough preparation, to organize your information, and to enable quick retrieval of the best examples to demonstrate a point asked by the interviewer. Last but not least, it entails helping clients deal with answering challenging questions with candor and confidence.
Considering your next steps in your career is about a lot more than a fishing expedition to see what you might catch by throwing out your CV. Investing in yourself to do it right the first time is well worth the returns of finding the right fit for your next role and potential future organization. In just three simple sessions, which can be done off hours and in privacy away form your day to day operations, you can better prepare yourself to explore the possibilities. If you are interested, click here to arrange a free private consultation at your convenience. For private clients, I offer flexible and discounted solution to fit your needs.
Thinking about a change? If you are looking to explore opportunities outside your current business, ask yourself: How prepared am I to take this step? What am I looking for? Does my CV project who I am and what I am capable of? How do I ensure that my qualifications and experiences convey to the person in front of me that I will add value to not only to the position but also to their organization? What perceptions do I give during an interview - my choice of words, tone, body language, the examples I choose to highlight when asked a question?
This is one of the most frequently requested services from both my private and corporate clients, whether they are seeking new opportunities within their current organization or looking externally to take their next step. The starting point is usually gaining clarity on what position you are seeking for your next step. Unfortunately, there is no clear written rule that states because you have done X & Y in the recent past, the logical next step is Z. We are not "owed" the opportunity to take a given position, One needs to understand in a clear and honest way true capabilities and experiences that are translatable and can add value to a desired position, while at the same time, giving you the opportunity to grow and challenge yourself. Understanding your own personal drivers, the things that you see in your next position that energize you, is another critical element while seeking to make a change. As we mature in our professional careers, it becomes more and more important that we are fulfilling these needs and that this step is congruent with a longer term big picture that you envision for yourself.
With regards to presenting ourselves on paper, oftentimes we assume that everything is crystal clear just by listing a chronological account of our past positions, but frequently we overlook the fact that not all experiences are relevant or hold equal weight depending on the position we are seeking. Many CV's list responsibilities within the role without demonstrating the impact you have made while in that position. Impact can be both quantitative as well as qualitative, but regardless, this needs to be clear. The result of not having this is a cacophony of "facts" that do not clearly communicate who you are and what you are capable of contributing that is of value to a position and to an organization. Additionally, if you fail to highlight those skills and experiences that are translatable to the position and organization we are seeking, why would they take a risk to consider hiring you?
Last but not least, while we are accomplished executives, oftentimes we underestimate the value of preparing ourselves for the interview itself. Clean neutral observations of how we come across as we speak to the person in front of us can teach us volumes on how to be more effective in getting our message across. Whether it is our choice of words, our tone, body language or how we respond to questions. While we can never fully anticipate what will be asked of us, there are ways to structure your preparation of the key messages that you want to convey in advance. I learned this through many years of preparing for media interviews - regardless of where the interviewer takes you, you need to consistently be able to both respond to their needs and to also get across the points that you would like to make. It is also critical to be comfortable in explaining things that may come across as unusual to the person interviewing you. By working through these elements in advance is a safe zone, the results can be seen in your confidence no matter where the interviewer takes you.
If you are interested in learning more, contact me. Have a good week!
Awareness is not something that
needs to be manufactured:
when there is a gap,
awareness enters into us.
So awareness does not require
a certain particular effort.
Such an effort is unnecessary.
Awareness is like a wind.
If you open your doors and windows,
it is bound to come in.
– Chogyam Trungpa
The New Year is beginning. For some of us, the New Year started on January 1st, for others it starts today with the Chinese (Lunar) New Year (February 3, 2011). It is a time of reflection for many of us, about the year that has closed and about the changes that we want to make in our lives in the coming year. It is a time of opportunity as well, because prospects of facing a new year can provide us with the motivation to mobilize. It gives us the feeling that we can make a fresh start or adjustments to ourselves if we have the desire and will to do so.
How many of you have made up your New Year’s resolutions? Now that we are starting February, how many of those are fading away already? Whether you have already done so or not, I would like to I invite you to take a deeper look as you contemplate the resolutions and the changes that you want to make in the coming year.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Sometimes Fade Away
One most common reasons why New Year’s resolutions get set aside is that the goal you have set is something you feel you “should” do, but in the scheme of things, perhaps it is not truly a priority. While it might have made perfect sense at the time of making the commitment, actions speak louder than words: our actions during the course of the year of will determine whether the goal was really a priority or not....
Watch your thoughts,
they become words.
Watch your words,
they become actions.
Watch your actions,
they become habits.
Watch your habits,
they become your character.
Watch your character,
it becomes your destiny.
- Buddhist philosophy
This very simple Buddhist philosophy is a great reminder that there is only one person who is the author your life. It’s you. While there are many events and other players in the story, our thoughts and beliefs drive our behaviors, and our choices drive our actions and ultimately our destiny.
With any change one tries to make in their life, it is important to gain awareness of what is going on inside of you that drives these behaviors. Usually there is a reason for anything we do. Rewriting the foundation beneath the behaviors helps drive lasting and sustainable improvement. If you are interested in learning more, contact me for a free trial session to see how coaching might help you gain the insight to drive positive change in your life and career.
I think that there is a lot of debate on the subject of whether or not the grass is always greener on the other side. Have you caught yourself going down this path? Ever have a friend speak to you about all the reasons why the grass is greener over there? Erma Bombeck, a humorous author writes, “The grass is always greener over the septic tank!” Now that might be taking it a little bit to an extreme.
Seriously, the reason why I wanted to write this article is because I wanted to explore people’s perceptions on change and whether or not there is a specific underlying behavior pattern at play. After you read the article, I would truly welcome your discussion on the subject at hand.
On the Job
Have you ever had a coffee with colleagues and the conversation turns into a downward spiral of comments describing everything wrong with your current employer? Do you find yourself saying, “It wasn’t like this (insert time frame here) years ago. When we started it was like (insert your description of nirvana here).” The thinking progresses. You start to wonder, “Are there better opportunities out there compared to this one?” ...